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Having made the acquaintance of one great mathematician
through his work, Galois took matters into his own hands.
Ignoring the meticulous pettifogging of his teacher, Galois went
directly for his algebra to the greatest master of the age,
Lagrange. Later he read Abel. The boy of fourteen or fifteen
absorbed masterpieces of algebraical analysis addressed to
mature professional mathematicians - the memoirs on the
numerical solution of equations, the theory of analytical func-
tions, and the calculus of functions. His class work in mathe-
matics was mediocre: the traditional course was trivial to a
mathematical genius and not necessary for the mastering of real
Galois' peculiar gift of being able to carry on the most diffi-
cult mathematical investigations almost entirely in his head
helped him with neither teachers nor examiners. Their insist-
ence upon details which to liim were obvious or trivial exas-
perated him beyond endurance, and he frequently lost his
temper. Nevertheless he carried off the prize in the general
examination. To the amazement of teachers and students alike
Galois had taken his own kingdom by assault while their backs
were turned.
With this first realization of his tremendous power, Galois"
character underwent a profound change. Knowing his kinship
to the great masters of algebraical analysis he felt an immense
pride and longed to rush on to the front rank to match his
strength with theirs. His family - even his unconventional
mother - found him strange. At school he seems to have
inspired a curious mixture of fear and anger in the minds of his
teachers and fellow students. His teachers were good men and
patient, but they were stupid, and to Galois stupidity was the
unpardonable sin. At the beginning of the year they had
reported him as "very gentle, full of innocence and good quali-
ties, but -' And they went on to say that "there is something
strange about him.' No doubt there was. The boy had unusual
brains. A little later they admit that he is not 'wicked', but
merely 'original and queer*, Argumentative", and they complain
that he delights to tease his comrades. All very reprehensible,-
no doubt, but they might have used then* eyes. The boy had